Whatever Happened To Frequency Capping?

Sometimes in marketing and advertising you have to put out a question and admit that you're not the best-placed person to answer it, but it's worth asking all the same. As Samsung is crowned the most advertised brand on British television for March with 2486 ad minutes across 3,535 spots, is it only me wondering, is that a good thing? Or put it another way, the question I routinely drive my family mad with -- what on earth has happened to frequency capping?

It was on a recent drive to the Lake District and back tuned in to the same commercial radio station that I managed to persuade anyone who would listen -- i.e., any non-teenager not on headphones -- that ad capping really seems to be a forgotten practice. All the way there and back we continually heard two or three ads that dominated every ad break. The same for every time we got in the car for a trip. Literally, I kid you not -- the same two or three advertisers filled every spot. It got to the point where the monotony was unbearable and my perception of the brands suffered.

That's why I'm wondering whether 2486 minutes of Samsung airtime in one month is necessarily a good thing. That's nearly 42 hours, or put another way, nearly two days worth of television out of 31 offered by the calendar for the month of March. That's pretty staggering, isn't it? Regular readers will know that I am very much a fan of television as an advertising channel but I am also acutely aware that there is such a thing as saturation. Let's not forget those near 42 hours of ads would have been mostly aimed at prime time of, say, three or four evening hours. All of a sudden you're talking about a month that probably offered a little over 100 hours of prime time television viewing. That figure of nearly 42 hours looks a lot higher now, doesn't it. OK -- you have to concede that we're in a multichannel fragmented tv landscape and that coverage would have been delivered across more than the handful of mainstream commercial stations. Even so, you can't get away from the thought that nearly two days worth of tv spots in one month sounds incredibly high.

Which brings me back to my original question. What has happened to frequency capping? Turn on the tv tonight and I can guarantee you'll have the same reaction as everybody else -- not these same old ads again, and again. Given that people record programmes and skip the ads far more than ever before, it might well be the case that brands are upping the spots built into each campaign in a hope to get through. My question then is, why just keep repeating the same ad? Carmakers could highlight a different feature of their car, couldn't they? Samsung could showcase a different function offered by its latest mobile phones and tablets, surely?

As I freely admit, I am probably not the person with the right answers here, but what I do know is that I don't get as tired of digital display advertising as I do radio and tv ads -- and that isn't due to the fact that broadcast is far harder to tune out because it's there on the screen you've been watching a drama or documentary on. It's down to digital marketers deploying frequency cap technology that prevents the same ads being shown to the same people time and time again. I can't help but think the lesson should be applied to broadcast because brands ramming home the same message time and time again just becomes counterproductive. Given the huge expense of broadcast advertising it has to pay to save a little budget and bore people less, doesn't it? Or at least change the creative slightly?

When a fan of television advertising is completely bored by the same brands saying the same thing every night, then the industry cannot be too surprised that the public has taken so readily to the fast forward button and non-linear viewing.

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